The dam has attracted mass protests
A plan to build a hydroelectric dam on a tributary of the River Amazon has been approved meaning clean energy for over 23 million Brazilian homes, but the flooding of huge portions of the Amazon basin, displacing indigenous tribes and putting 500 sq km of rain-forest underwater.
The Belo Monte Dam project headed by Norte Energia, a consortium of nine companies, was approved by Brazil's electricity regulator despite the strong objections of local indigenous groups and environmentalists. The decision has been met with outrage and condemnation with Luis Xipaya, an indigenous leader in the city of Altamira, near the proposed dam saying, "There will be bloodshed and the government will be responsible for that."
Clean energy at a high price
Despite officials saying the dam is needed to provide power to Brazil, many believe the construction will seriously damage the local eco-system. Already, 80 percent of Brazil's energy comes from hydro-electric dams, but the state-owned Energy Research Company estimates that only a third of the hydroelectric potential of the country has been tapped into. As such, projects like the Belo Monte Dam have garnered strong support.
The project has had a long tortuous history, with it being abandoned several times, noticeably in the early 90s due to its controversial nature and widespread global protests.
In recent years, a host of consortia have bidded on the project, but Norte Energia today emerging the winner. Earlier this month, two of Brazil's biggest construction companies walked away from the bidding process, saying the financial returns were too low.
Environmental groups have often said that the construction of the Belo Monte Dam will cause devastation in a large area of the rain-forest and threaten the survival of indigenous groups, but the government has denied this saying that the project has now been modified to ensure that the livelihoods of indigenous people won't be affected. In fact, Norte Energia have allegedly stated they will pay US$800 million to protect the environment.
The creation of the Belo Monte Dam is expected to begin in 2015 and is rumoured to cost around $17 billion. The 11,000 MW dam would be third largest in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.
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